Gratitude Lists

Gratitude Lists

Many of you may be already doing a gratitude list each day. Many in your journal, others maybe digitally. Some of you don’t do them yet, and that’s ok. Hopefully though, you’ll be encouraged to do them by this post!

For years I’ve been sending out, and receiving, gratitude lists to many others via text. Their lists encourage and remind me to do my list, and vice versa, while we also get to share some of the most wonderful parts of our lives with each other.

So, without further ado, here’s my list today…

Grateful…

For the life I have today. Sometimes I’m not sure how I got from there to here, but it’s really epic.

Can’t believe I’m living in beautiful Maui, in an incredible home with ocean views, and have an amazing sober, loving tenant that helps me take care of the property.

We get to have both an AA/AlAnon double winners meeting on Sundays and a Life Lover meeting on Thursdays at our property. So rad.

Love my new sponsee. Building close relationships with other men in the pursuit of helping them love their lives and become even better versions of themselves is such an honor.

So blessed to my a family and children who give me love, and allow me to love them, more than I had ever thought possible.

Many of my current sponsees have become my best friends. Men I would trust with my life and family. Men I can count on, who are always there for me, as I am for them. Men I am truly proud of.

My the therapist, who just yesterday took me on a wonder 45 minute meditation, whereby the flow of my breath, in and out, matched the vision in my mind of the ocean flowing over the sand and back out, like the breath of our planet.

Open mindedness. Over the last 10 years or so I’ve noticed an increased willingness of exploration into new ways to expand both my love of life and my connection to source. My contempt prior to investigation is waning, finally.

Consistency and self-discipline in recovery. Because I’ve now identified a direct correlation between the practice of my recovery rituals and the strength of my capacity to love life, I’ve really stepped up my game in this area, and it’s paying off in huge dividends.

My ability to be self-supporting. It doesn’t matter how much money I make, what’s important is that I’m making my best effort to try to financially support myself and those who are financially dependent upon me.

From a lost, struggling alcoholic, druggy kid who was angry at his parents and the world, sleeping in alleys, bus depots, abandoned cars and homes, to the man I am today and the life I’m living. If that’s not a miracle, I’m not sure what is.

ILML!

Thoughts Create Feelings

“Until today you may not have been aware of how unkind, unsupportive, impatient, critical, angry, frustrated and rough you can be with yourself. Just for today be aware of how you treat yourself.” — Until Today, March 8th

Ask yourself this. If you knew you’d live 30 more years, and decided that you were going to really love life to its fullest and be super happy, but also knew that you would never have an intimate, loving relationship with another person, how would you do it?

In other words, if the ability to use a relationship to make you feel fulfilled, loved and happy was removed from the picture, how would you live life to the fullest and be happy?

This exercise allows you to live the life of your dreams without needing another person to make it happen.

Once you’ve figured out how to do this, the relationships that are unhealthy will begin to fall away, making room for those that will, emotionally, be much healthier for you.

Get it?

Please don’t see this exercise as an opportunity to punish or beat yourself up, to be the victim, or to deprive yourself. Rather, see it as an opportunity to get out of this idea that we NEED a someone else to love us in order to be happy.

It’s totally reasonable to desire loving people in our life and to enjoy those relationships. But when we stop NEEDING that to be fulfilled, we cease to become dependent on having or keeping a relationship in order to be happy. I can’t ever expect to love my life “no matter what”, if it DOES matter what. If I NEED to have —— , or NEED to do ——, or NEED to earn ——, or NEED to feel —— to be happy, I’m missing out on being happy right now!

I’ve mastered the ability to shift my thoughts to produce the feelings I want. This ability was really important to me because I want to feel good, and to do so, now all I have to do is think “good” thoughts.

Do thoughts that make me uncomfortable pop into my head? All the time!

The difference between me and those that aren’t loving life or are dependent on something happening to love life, is that they allow those thoughts that make them feel uncomfortable to hang out for a lot longer. It’s a simple math equation: the shorter amount of time that you allow yourself to think about things that are upsetting, the more time you’ll have each day to feel great!

In other words, the longer we allow our negative thoughts to percolate, the less we love life.

There are lots of reasons people allow this:

They may like being intellectual.

They may have a victim mentality.

They may like the attention they get when they tell others about their pain.

They may not know how to stop.

They may be too lazy to take the actions required to shift their thoughts.

They may not feel they deserve to be happy and love life. Their may be some shame.

They may feel that ruminating, contemplating, investigating, and searching for ways to fix the problem will eventually allow them to uber one it and one day be happy again (I get this answer a lot).

They may be using (alcohol, drugs, women, gambling, work, caretaking, etc) to take away the pain and obscure their feelings.

Of course there are many more reasons. But I came to this understanding about myself at 20 years sober, in 2002, when I really dove into the program, treated it like an educational class, and came up with a system of recovery that works really well for me.

And as a result of practicing it diligently, ILML!

– JamieQ

A Comprehensive Program of Action to Love My Life

“Spiritual awakening… as a result of working the steps… I developed a deeper relationship with a loving higher power… drinkers… are wonderful, and valuable individual who have been affected by the disease… I try to carry this message… practicing these principles in all my affairs has change my life… family relationships… interaction with others… problems are more easily resolved… less judgmental… more accepting… better equipped to accept what I cannot change, and live life as it happens.” — Reaching for Personal Freedom

I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I’ve been working a program for a long time, or that I’m more spiritually connected than my first 20 years sober, but when I read from this Reaching for Personal Freedom it’s very hard not to highlight almost every word. The ideas resonates so deeply with my core beliefs.

I’ve come to realize that getting sober was just the beginning.

Getting a sponsor was just the beginning.

Going through the steps was just the beginning.

Going to meetings was just the beginning.

Sponsoring others was just the beginning.

Learning to pray and meditate was just the beginning.

Being of service and sponsoring others was just the beginning.

Journaling on a daily basis was just the beginning.

Opening up my mind to higher consciousness through listening to podcasts, watching videos, and reading from others who inspire me was just the beginning.

The substance, value, effectiveness and rewards of my program have come from consistently putting it all together, one day at a time. By working a comprehensive program of action…

ILML!

Melt Away Hopelessness

Melt Away Hopelessness

“…I was hopeless.” AA p.10

“… I bore down hard on the hopelessness..” Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions p.152

Hopelessness. I doubt there’s even one of us that has not experienced this feeling.

Sometimes it’s about work, money, bills, housing, a car, or even being able to buy Christmas gifts for family.

More often, for me at least, it’s about my inability to make relationships work the way I want. Not being able to get those I love and care about to love, care about, and treat me the way I want them to.

So ultimately it’s a control issue. When I can’t control people, situations and outcomes, when I can’t get them to align with my expectations (which I often feel are quite reasonable), I fall into the pit of despair. Woe is me. Have pity on me for I am a victim of circumstances. I’m stuck in the abyss of hopelessness with no way out.

But there is a way out. It’s through AWARENESS and ACTION.

At 58 years old I’ve become highly attuned to how I feel physically. If I’m hungry or tired, sore or sick, I’ve learned to take immediate action to resolve it. I don’t like being physically uncomfortable. I’ll take some vitamins, drink more water, take a nap, see the doctor, etc. I’ll do whatever is required to physically feel better. I’m good at taking care of myself in these ways, again, because I don’t like feeling bad.

The same applies to my mental health. I’ve become incredibly attuned to my emotional state of mind. I’m very aware when I feel happy, safe, grateful, comfortable, and at peace. Likewise I know when I’m feeling sad, uncomfortable, depressed, irritable, angry, scared, frustrated or confused.

This is AWARENESS – and it’s fundamental to get me out of my funk. But in order to get all the way out of hopelessness, I need to take ACTION. Luckily, I have an endless supply of concrete, solution-oriented actions that will quickly get me out of hopelessness. Some of the tools I use are:

  • Meditation
  • Connecting with Source

  • Getting our into Nature

  • Doing some Exercise

  • Reading from Inspirational Books

  • Sharing Excerpts with Others

  • Disco Dancing

  • Singing to Music

  • Getting to a Meeting

  • Playing Guitar

  • Doing Positive Affirmations Aloud

  • Skateboarding

  • Speaking Lovingly to Myself in the Mirror

  • Surfing

  • Journaling out Thoughts & Feelings

  • Buying myself something Small

  • Making & Sharing a Gratitude List

  • Doing some Yoga

  • Listening to Spiritual Podcasts

  • Getting Productive on my Tasks

  • Taking a Nap

  • Smiling & saying hi to others

  • Giving Love to a fog, cat or pet

  • Volunteering my time

  • Staying in bed for 8 hours Max

  • Yelling our “I LOVE MY LIFE” repeatedly

  • Being kind & loving to everyone possible

  • Refusing to Complain about my problems

  • Seeing my therapist to seek solution

  • Cleaning my house, car & office

  • Working my program & steps

  • Writing a 4th step on my hopelessness

  • Eating some sweets

  • Getting myself organized

  • Going to a movie

  • Call my sponsor to get into gratitude

  • Calling newcomers to check on them

  • Actively practice forgiveness in writing

  • Picking up trash I see on the sidewalk

  • Stopping to smell a flower

  • Understanding/Surrendering Expectations

  • Immersing myself in the ocean

  • Living in the Moment Exercises

  • Snorkeling and watching the fish

  • Working out of my step-work book

Many of these are tools that I use preemptively, to prevent me from falling into a funk to begin with.

But I also use them when I’m feeling hopeless, and provided I’m willing to do whatever it takes, and use every tool available if necessary, my hopelessness always melts away, and I’m guided back to that warm and wonderful place of gratitude where.. ILML!

— JamieQ

A Small Price to Pay

A Small Price to Pay

By working this step, we keep the cobwebs out of (our life).” – Reaching for Personal Freedom

This morning, working on the 10th step in my work book, I came across that sentence. Cobwebs are fine when they’re catching pleasant memories. But when they catch ahold of fears, problems, self-pity, anger, frustration and hopelessness, those cobwebs have to be swept away or they will destroy me.

The only way I’ve discovered how to eliminate such cobwebs from my life is to approach them like a final exam in college that I really need to get an A in.

Having had a difficult time keeping my attention focused throughout my life, I had to work super hard in college to get good grades. While others, like my younger brother, could get A’s by just glancing at text books and attended some classes, I had to approach college differently.

I would read the text book. Then read it a second time with a highlighter in my hand, highlighting what I thought might be on a test. Then I’d write out, in a notebook, everything that I highlighted. Then I’d read it into a tape recorder. Then I’d listen to what I read over and over. Plus, I made sure to attended every class and took copious notes. I even sold my notes to others, they were so good. Ever the entrepreneur. I ended up scoring very high in college, but it was really, really hard work and very, very long hours.

I approach my program the same way. The prize isn’t A’s —it’s something even better: when I make working my program, growing spiritually, and carrying the message to others the priority in my life, and I commit at least a couple hours each day doing it, I get to be rocketed into the forth dimension and have a life beyond my wildest dreams. I also get to have great relationships with others and love the man I’m becoming. It’s so cool.

So each day, when I awaken, I resolve for that day to allocate the first couple of hours to working my program, which I call the Daily Deal. I think it’s a small price to pay in order to get an attitude of gratitude and be happy, joyous and free.

Because… I’ve learned that when I make recovery my priority… ILML!

— Jamie Q

The 5-10-11-12 Club

The 5-10-11-12 Club

“… become, one day at a time, the people we want to be.” — Hope for Today

I often talk about how I am striving each day to become the very best version of me.

The way in which I attain this goal, to grow and evolve into the most wonderful man I can be, is to embrace the courage to recognize and acknowledge the things that are holding me back from that desire.

Here’s how I take the action.

I write out a daily inventory, recapping the last 24 hours, identifying both my successes and those thoughts and behaviors that I engaged in which could be improved upon. Doing this provides me with the insight necessary to effectuate positive change in my life.

Both my ability to face my shortcomings, along with a resolve to do better, little by little, day by day, helps to transform me into a slightly better version of me. I also identify in my writing if I’ve hurt someone, and provided I’m spiritually fit enough, I make immediate amends by picking up the phone.

As an added benefit, if I’m practicing prayer and meditation and sponsoring others or sharing at meetings, when asked what what step I’m working on, I can always honestly say, “I’m in the 5, 10, 11 & 12 Club.”

Here’s why:

5: We’re admitting our shortcomings.

10: We’re taking our inventory and making amends.

11: We’re making time for prayer and meditation.

12: We’re carrying the message.

I’ve done lots of wonderful things in my life. I’ve also done plenty of shitty things. These days I want only to plant seeds of love, and avoid planting seeds of destruction. I can do this more often than not by diligently working a spiritual program of action. And as a byproduct… ILML!

Healthier Relationships

Healthier Relationships

“Each of us has a right to voice our opinions and ideas reasonably, without criticism or ridicule.” – Reaching for Personal Freedom

Sounds simple enough, right? But how well does it work when others want to express their ideas about me and my behavior? When they’re not particularly happy with me?

I recently did something without running it by someone close to me and they felt hurt. Whether I should have run it by them or not isn’t the point. Inadvertently, as a result of my behavior, regardless of whether I think I hurt them, they felt hurt. That’s the point. And our program teaches us what to do when we hurt others. We work step 9.

But the real growth comes from living amends. Learning what to do the next time. Or, perhaps more importantly, how to put myself in the best position possible to take the right action the next time.

In this situation I’d been traveling and not making my program, my daily deal, and my meetings, my number one priority. On top of that, I hadn’t been sleeping enough, and was really out of my element. Even my connection with my higher power wasn’t where it usually is. This will always put me in a very vulnerable state, usually resulting in me reacting from a place of fear rather than responding from a place of love.

So what happened when I was confronted? You can probably guess.

I became defensive, justifying my behavior, unable to respond to their their feelings I proceeded to attack them, listing off several of their shortcomings in an attempt to shift responsibility and ended the conversation with some random threat to our relationship. And you know what I told myself the whole time? I was doing this in the name of setting healthy boundaries, standing up for myself and letting them know I’m not to be judged, blamed, controlled or called out. Pretty healthy response right? I think not.

Now let’s consider how how I’d handle the situation if I were spiritually centered. This is what I aspire towards, and how I would reasonably respond to a situation like this if my own house is in order.

Coming out of faith (rather than fear), connected to my highest power, I would be able to respectfully listen to their concerns, without reacting in defensiveness, criticism, or judgement.

Next, when they were done speaking and asked me why I did what I did, I’d simply answer them as follows:

“Thanks for sharing your feelings with me. I need some time to think about it and reflect upon what you’ve said. I plan to do some writing and reason it out with my sponsor. Let’s chat tomorrow about this. Again, I appreciate you bringing it to my attention.”

This is called gracing the space, giving me some time to consider their feelings, so I can find my part and evolve into an even better version of myself.

How I respond or react is entirely dependent upon how spiritually connected I am at that moment. When I consistently and diligently put my program first, stay in the center of the lifeboat, write and send out my gratitude list, dance, sing, play guitar, smile, laugh, play, work, sleep, clean house, carry the message, meet my responsibilities, plug into my higher power, and get to my meetings, my relationships stay healthy, I respect both the person I’m becoming and the one I’m relating to and… ILML!